Bleak House

Bleak House

by

Charles Dickens

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Bleak House: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Morning breaks over Leicester Square, where George and Phil sleep in the shooting gallery. When the sun is up, the two men rise and have breakfast together. George asks Phil about where he was born, and Phil says that it was in the country, but that he has never really seen the country since. George tells Phil that he grew up in the country and that his mother still lives there. George asks Phil how old he is, but Phil does not know and can only count roughly from the day when he followed a “tinker” to the city.
Phil implies that when he was just a child, a traveling man brought him to the city. Although he seems to long for the country, he doesn’t have the means or the opportunity to return.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
Phil tells George that he became a blacksmith and took over the “tinker’s” business, but he was badly burned in an accident and, after this, people did not want him around. Phil reminiscences about the day he met George and enthusiastically expresses his gratitude that George took him on. He clears their plates and goes to work cleaning the weapons. They hear footsteps in the passage and Mr. Smallweed is brought into the room, carried on his chair by a young man. This young man, it turns out, is the cab driver who brought them there. Mr. Smallweed is accompanied by Judy, who pays the cabbie and sends him on his way.
Phil has been rejected by society because of how he looks. As is true for many of the novel’s characters, though, there is much more to Phil than meets the eye. Upon meeting Phil, George saw through the man’s exterior and recognized that he had the makings of a loyal attendant and friend.
Themes
Social Mobility, Class, and Lineage Theme Icon
Philanthropy, Social Responsibility, and Kindness Theme Icon
Identity and Appearance Theme Icon
Phil lifts Mr. Smallweed’s chair effortlessly and deposits him by the fire. He hisses in the heat from the flames, and Judy drags him back slightly. Mr. Smallweed eyes the surrounding weapons rather nervously and George asks him for his pipe. This sends Mr. Smallweed into an impotent rage and he snarls and shakes his fist at George. George indignantly asks Mr. Smallweed what he has come for.
Mr. Smallweed is aware of his physical powerlessness and worries that George and Phil may use the weapons against him if he offends them. Mr. Smallweed judges them by his own standards, however, and forgets that George is an honorable man who would never hurt someone so defenseless. Mr. Smallweed, however, would physically threaten people if he could and this is why he shakes his fist and is so frustrated by his own impotence.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Mr. Smallweed tells George that he “his friend in the city” has recently done a deal with Richard Carstone, who he knows is a friend of George’s. George is unhappy to hear this, but Mr. Smallweed says this is not why he has come. He has come because he has been approached by a lawyer who is looking for a sample of Captain Hawdon’s handwriting. Mr. Smallweed thinks George may have one and asks if he will bring it to the lawyer’s office.
Mr. Smallweed implies that Richard has borrowed money off him, suggesting that Richard is getting himself into an increasingly tight spot. It’s also implied that George served with Captain Hawdon in the army and so it is likely that he would have a document written by the captain.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Passion, Obsession, and Madness Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon
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George says that he will come, but that he will not show the lawyer anything unless he is given a satisfactory reason for it. George goes to a safe and withdraws a sheet of paper. Phil then carries Mr. Smallweed to a carriage, which waits outside, and Judy and George follow him into the cab.
George is unwilling to do anything that might damage or hurt anyone. He has kept the document in a safe, which suggests it is private, and only intends to hand it over if there is a good reason.
Themes
Law vs. Justice Theme Icon
Haunting, Guilt, and Destiny Theme Icon